Microsoft watching newsgroups

Thursday, 21 August 2003, 1:48 PM EST

Ever get the feeling your Usenet newsgroup list is being watched? By Microsoft?

If so, consider yourself right. Thanks to the expertise of sociologist Marc Smith, Microsoft is keeping a close eye on newsgroups and other public e-mail lists, which it has identified as the Internet's undervalued "knowledge management application."

In Microsoft's research and development labs, Smith has spent the past several years slicing and dicing data about messages and message authors in an ambitious effort to help people make sense of the newsgroup manifold--the hordes of know-it-alls, flame warriors, spammers and neophytes who, by Smith's estimate, last year numbered more than 100 million in the Usenet network of e-mail threads, or newsgroups.

Smith's idea is that you can tell a lot about the quality of data by tracking its newsgroup contributors' social habits--a notion that holds promise for sorting through millions of messages, and peril for a online world increasingly skittish about invasions of privacy.

[ Read more ]




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